Rebels without a clue

We applaud the Kennett High School principal for not allowing the Confederate battle flag to be displayed, and while we’re tempted to give a nod to the boys for standing behind something they believe in, we doubt their motives.


At its core, this is a First Amendment issue.


As a newspaper, we wrestle with such issues regularly, and we offer the boys our standards to think about.


When deciding to print a story that can make someone look bad, we say to ourselves, “We have the right to publish it, but is it the right thing to do?”


Two examples illustrate this point: court news and divorce proceeding, both public information.


Many, many people over the years have asked us not to publish their names in the court news because it would damage their reputation. With rare exceptions (and only if a court judgment is a mistake) have we acquiesced.


The reason: We believe informing people about what the police are up to, and alerting them about criminal activity, serves the public and outweighs any effects it may have on the reputation of an individual who ends up in court.


Conversely, we choose not to publish the names of people who get divorced. We don’t see any public good coming from printing divorce proceedings, and if there is any, we don’t think it important enough to infringe on someone’s private life.


It’s easy for reporters to write about someone from behind the safety of a keyboard. It’s quite another thing to look that person in the eye.


So another standard we use is to ask ourselves whether we feel strongly enough about the story that we would defend it face-to-face to the person we are writing about.


The students have a First Amendment right to fly the battle flag, and while it is unlikely that they have direct lineage to the Confederacy, it is true there are descendants of Confederate soldiers who legitimately believe it represents honor and Southern heritage.


But to the vast majority of people today, the flag represents a system of government that was based on slavery, and is a symbol of oppression and hatred.


The teens should ask themselves if the satisfaction they receive from parading the flags around outweighs the discomfort and outrage it causes to others.


Flying the Confederate flag in a grocery store parking lot in a lily-white community like Conway is safe. We wonder how their resolve would hold up if Conway had a sizable black community who might confront them; or if they would have the courage to convoy their pickups with flags unfurled through the streets of an ethnically mixed city like Boston. 


There are many countries that ban symbols of oppression. France, for instance, explicitly bans the swastika, which a thousand years ago meant “good fortune” but was infamously corrupted by the Nazis in World War II. 


We are lucky to live in a country with a very, very powerful First Amendment. But with freedom comes responsibility to use good judgment, and we encourage the Kennett kids to use some.

Endorsements for selectmen, school board, police commission

For the two open seats on the Conway School Board, we endorse Joe Mosca and Randy Davison.

Mosca in particular shares our view that it is possible to substantially raise the salaries of teachers without increasing the size of the overall budget.

The only silver lining of a school system like ours with a declining school population is it opens up some maneuvering room to reorganize.

For Conway, it may mean closing a school, dropping or rearranging underutilized classes or hacking away at the administrative staff, which by any reasonable measurement has become bloated.

Paying teachers enough to stem the high turnover rate that now plagues Kennett High School, while keeping the budget in check, will take tough-minded, clear-thinking school board members, and we believe Mosca has those qualities.

As a past school board member, Davison is a bit of wild card, but he is outspoken, and has proved his passion and commitment, characteristics we like on any board.

Sue Nelson is well-qualified, but she is also newly elected to the North Conway Water Precinct. Being a school board member is the most time-consuming of any elected local board, and we favor candidates who have less on their public-service plates.

The fourth candidate is Syndi White, the school board’s current vice chair. She has served admirably and honorably for six years, but that’s a long time on a high-burnout board, and we want the new energy Mosca and Davison promise to bring.


We used different criteria for endorsing selectmen candidates. Unlike the school system, which is facing a crisis in teacher turnover and begs for reform, town hall, a much smaller organization, chugs along efficiently, run by a very competent and experienced senior staff.

Here, we aren’t looking for candidates with blockbuster agendas to fix a town hall that doesn’t really need fixing, but candidates who can competently represent their constituents.

John Colbath is our top pick for the two open seats. He has a wealth of experience both professionally and serving on non-profit and governmental boards.

For the second spot we are comfortable with either Kevin MacMillan or Steve Porter, but the decision is complicated because electing Porter means losing him as chairman of the planning board.

With one year left on his term, we think Porter will serve the town best by finishing it as the board’s chairman, particularly now that commercial development is heating up, and then run for selectman next year.

MacMillan is the classic man of the people. He has served on the planning board and board of adjustment, and is the only candidate who lives in North Conway.

Police Commission

For police commissioner, we endorse Andy Pepin over long-time incumbent police commissioner Dave Doherty. Pepin is a professional manager, and we believe has the skills to do the job. As important, we think it is an embarrassment to the town and the police profession that he did not call for the resignation of fellow commissioner Larry Martin after he instigated a road rage incident in the middle of North Conway last summer.

EDITORIAL: Endorsements for Local Races

State Sen. Jeb Bradley is literally the most effective and productive state legislator we know.
We wholeheartedly endorse him and encourage independent voters to look beyond some of his conservative views on litmus-test issues and appreciate his moderate style and what he has accomplished by buffering the extreme elements of the Republican party and working with Democrats.
Over the years Bradley has been instrumental is passing some of the most important legislation in the state’s history, most recently as co-sponsor of the bill to expand Medicaid to 20,000 of the state’s working poor, and prior to that pension reform. 
He is a true legislative heavyweight and deserves support from both sides of the aisle.

Vote Shaheen, Shea-Porter and Hassan

Vote Shaheen, Shea-Porter and Hassan
At the top of the ballot we endorse incumbents Sen. Jeanne Shaheen, Rep. Carol Shea-Porter and Gov. Maggie Hassan.
When we endorsed President Obama in 2008 and 2012, we said the Republicans were on the wrong side of history on the major issues of our time, including health care, the war in Iraq, and a host of social issues. 
Our view hasn't changed, and, until a new progressive generation of Republicans come along to run for the state’s top offices like the candidates we supported in the primary, Jim Rubens, Dan Innis and Andrew Hemingway, we'll stick with the Democrats. 
Despite Obama’s low approval rating, we disagree with the Republicans that the country is going to hell in a hand basket.
Putting it in perspective, Obama's approval rating hovers around 40 percent which compares almost exactly to President Reagan's in his sixth year in office.
Coincidence? Not really. The sixth year is always rough for presidents because a lot happens in six years and the buck stops at the sitting president’s desk. 
Obama can’t be blamed for the latest mess in the Middle East or the spread of Ebola in West Africa any more than President Bush can be for the world-wide housing bubble that led to the worst economic downturn since the Great Depression or 9/11. 
By most major indicators, the country is in pretty good shape and trending the right way. 
The deficit remains a top concern for most Americans, yet it has shrunk dramatically and is now 2.8 percent of the GDP, below the 30 year average of 3.1 percent.  
The economy has grown and unemployment has shrunk for five straight years and is by far the strongest and most stable of any country in the world. Even locally, the economy has picked up noticeably this summer. 
The lynchpin issue of this election is Obamacare, and challengers Scott Brown, Frank Guinta and Walt Havenstein would repeal it, a position we don’t agree with. 
Voters should keep in mind that a major piece of Obamacare, Medicaid expansion, passed in New Hampshire this year because of a bipartisan bill co-sponsored by Republican sate senator Jeb Bradley.  
Because the state has a large population of rural working poor, the number of people enrolled in 2014 not only far exceeded federal estimates but reduced the percentage of uninsured from 14 to 8 percent. 
Not only is the expansion providing more health care to people who need it, but it is injecting hundreds of millions into the state's economy and saving the state millions of dollars in reimbursing hospitals for uncompensated care. 
None of the challengers, Brown, Guinta or Havenstein, have a credible plan to replace Obamacare, nor a realistic one to deal with the 20,000 newly enrolled in New Hampshire who would find themselves without health insurance. 
A theme in yesterday's editorial was the high quality of candidates running for local offices on both sides of the aisle.  Not so at the top of ticket. 
Cynicism and hypocrisy run deep in politics, but Brown's level of carpetbagging goes beyond the pale in our opinion. Republican or Democrat, no New Hampshire resident should feel good about supporting a candidate who lost a senate race in Massachusetts two years ago, considered running for governor in that state, then chose New Hampshire as a platform to continue his political career.  We deserve someone who calls New Hampshire home, not just owns a home in it. 
Beyond Guinta's sketchy financial shenanigans from his past candidacies, not only can’t we support his radically conservative Tea Party views, but he speaks in platitudes and rhetoric more than any major candidate we’ve interviewed, and shamelessly tailors his message to what he thinks people want to hear.
When he beat Shea-Porter four years ago, Guinta took a 'no earmarks pledge" and not accept federal money in the form of earmarks until the budget is balanced.  That no longer applies apparently, and now he's pledging to make sure New Hampshire gets its fair share. 
Havenstein is the shining star among these three. We’re convinced he’s a man of unimpeachable accomplishments and integrity but the governor’s office in New Hampshire has very limited power, and we fail to see how a man who is new to politics, has no experience working with the legislature and few connections to it, will be able to get anything done. 
Unlike their Republican opponents, Sheehan, Shea-Porter and Hassan each have dedicated decades of their lives to public service, both in and out of office. They are tough and ambitious politicians who have reached the heights of political power in New Hampshire by working tirelessly for all of us. And they deserve your vote.

Superintendent Tony Simone

At the school board’s strategic planning rally Thursday, long-time educator and keynote speaker Tony Simone talked about the winds of change facing education.  His inspirational message called for visionary and imaginative thinking, and the courage and willingness to take on a new era  of challenges. 
It will take a superintendent with special talents to navigate those winds and face those challenges, and we can think of no one more qualified than him. 
It was 17 years ago when current SAU 9 Superintendent Carl Nelson was chosen over Simone, then principal of the Kenneth A. Brett School in Tamworth, who even back then was considered an out-of-the box thinker. 
But the priority at the time was building a new high school and Nelson was the right choice.  Not only did Nelson oversee the construction of the new Kennett High School, but for nearly two decades has done a masterful job of herding cats, otherwise known as the school boards from the sending towns.
After failed attempts the last two years to replace him, Nelson continues on as superintendent on a part-time basis.
Simone, meanwhile, went in a totally different direction and began a dynamic career in education running American high schools all over the world, including Egypt and Russia. 
There is unavoidable symmetry that Nelson was chosen over Simone 17 years ago when Nelson was the the right person to build a new school, and now, Simone, having spent 15 years picking up new ideas and strategies from around the world, is back in Conway just at the time when the school system needs someone like him, a reformer, creative thinker and visionary.
To call someone a visionary is a lofty description. In business, they are more commonly called entrepreneurs. Entrepreneurs tend to be better at starting businesses with new ideas or products than running them, and managers often are better at running businesses than starting them. 
Nelson and assistant superintendent Kevin Richard are managers, Simone is an entrepreneur. 
With Richard facilitating and chamber executive director Janice Crawford consulting, the school district’s strategic planning committee has embarked on necessary and important work. 
We predict two major recommendations will come out of it. 
First, increase teachers’ pay. Retention and development of quality teachers is the highest priority, and to do that without raising taxes will require dramatic steps, like eliminating the archaic teachers union (of which only 40 percent of the teachers belong) and prioritizing curriculum. 
The second is consolidating school buildings. With enrollment on a long-term decline, there is a huge opportunity to both close one or more schools and leverage human resources in fewer locations. 
Big changes are easier said than done, particularly in school systems, which are notoriously bureaucratic and slow moving. 
That won’t happen without a visionary and reform-minded superintendent, and regardless whether the salary is $110,000 or $150,000, it will be very difficult to find one. 
Unless of course, we ask Simone, the only person on the planet we know of who both knows our school system and community and has those leadership skills.